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Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom (Dark Shadow Edition) review

Aussie laptop maker shows the way with a powerful and upgradeable notebook built for the long term.

Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom (Dark Shadow Edition) notebook on a blue background
Last updated: 23 March 2022

CHOICE verdict

The 15.6-inch 2022 edition Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom is a strong offering in the power-user laptop space. It's a no-nonsense notebook for serious users that has seven standard variations ranging from the mid-range at $2299 to the high-end at $4699. Our test model, courtesy of Venom, was the Dark Shadow Edition, fitted with an 11th-generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, 32GB of RAM and amazingly fast 2TB solid-state drive storage. You also get the customary Venom extras, such as an extra power 'brick' (one for work, one for home), ready-made troubleshooting USB key, and the advantage of upgradeable and replaceable key parts – RAM, storage and Wi-Fi modules. This is part of Venom's unique approach to eco-friendly sustainability, which also includes a buy-back offer for up to seven years. These are important considerations if you're looking for a quality notebook for the long term.

Price: $3549

Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom (Dark Shadow Edition) – right-side view

How does the BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom perform?

In a nutshell? The BlackBook mean business. Our performance findings for the Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor and Intel Iris Xe graphics processing were good, but the super-fast storage was outstanding. 

This is the fastest storage performance results we've achieved, taking the title from the previously tested 14-inch Venom BlackBook Zero Phantom. That 14-inch model broke all previous storage speed records with 7080MBps read speed and 5122MBps write speed. However, this 15-inch Dark Shadow Edition eclipsed that with a read speed of 7103MBps and a write speed of 5133MBps.

Super-fast storage speeds lift the BlackBook Zero 15's overall performance considerably

Fast storage speed tends to lift the overall performance rating of a computer and in the case of the Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom (Dark Shadow Edition), the super-fast storage coupled with the abundance of RAM makes this notebook a strong candidate for intensive applications such as serious video, audio, and picture editing.

With all this performance you need a good cooling system for when you're running the laptop under sustained heavy load and it's always best to sit the laptop on a hard, flat surface to keep it vented properly when doing so. We found the fan noise to be noticeable during performance testing, with the fan speed app set to auto by default.

Plenty of ports for connectivity

Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom (Dark Shadow Edition) – left-hand ports

Ports on the left side (above) include power, HDMI, USB 3.2 (Type-A), USB 3.2 (Type-C), Thundebolt 4 (Type-C). On the right side are headset, Micro SDcard, USB 2.0 (Type-A), RJ45 (ethernet) and security lock slot.

Venom again appears to have versatility in mind with its approach to connectivity, so you'll find plenty of options. You get the latest Wi-Fi 6, which gave us good wireless networking performance, and the laptop includes the latest Bluetooth 5.2 version. 

Physical connectivity ports include one each of rectangular Type-A shape USB 2.0 and USB 3.2 Gen-1 (5Gbps), plus one Type-C shape USB 3.2 Gen-2 (10Gbps) port and one Type-C shape Thunderbolt 4 port (40Gbps), which also supports power delivery and is DisplayPort compatible for attaching external monitors. 

There's also a full-sized HDMI port and gigabit ethernet, headphone jack, plus a microSD card reader and security lock slot. This is great if you want to use this in a home office as your main computer and need an external monitor and wired networking.

We tested under Windows 10 as that's what it shipped it with, but as you would expect it satisfies all requirements to run Windows 11, so you can upgrade at anytime. 

Long-life battery and two external power supplies

As with any laptop, battery life depends on how you use it. We found battery life good, at just over eight hours in our heavy-use tests. This means you should achieve more like 12 hours in normal usage, and longer with light usage. 

The need to stretch out battery life is less of an issue with Venom laptops, however, as you get the bonus of two external power supply units as standard equipment, so you can keep one at home and one at the office.

Battery life is good, but you also get two power supplies – one for home and one for the office

Another nice touch is that you also get a factory-prepared USB recovery key, which is very handy in case you ever need to restore the factory settings and get the computer back to its original state, which Venom says can be done using the USB recovery drive in under 10 minutes (though we didn't test this). 

The Australia-based company ships its laptops globally, so a quick-fix solution such as this can be a big timesaver, especially if you run into problems while you're travelling or if you're based overseas.

Screen and keyboard

The 15.6-inch screen is Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels), has a thin surround and a non-reflective matte finish (it isn't a touchscreen). We measured the maximum screen brightness at 331nits, which is good for a laptop. The webcam and speakers, on the other hand, were not so good, and if you're doing a lot of online meetings you'll probably want to plug in external units.

The keyboard includes a full numeric keypad and can be backlit in a variety of colours, depending on your preference. We found the keyboard good overall, though the right-hand shift key is a little small due to the numeric keypad. There's a large touchpad with an integrated fingerprint reader for security, but you can also use face recognition via the IR camera.

Replaceable components provide flexibility

Inside the Venom BlackBook Zero 15 Phantom (Dark Shadow Edition)

You can remove the bottom cover to reveal two bays for both the RAM and storage, making upgrades easy.

Going against the trend for modern laptops, Venom provides very welcome upgrade potential in all its models, which means you don't have to 'max out' the specs which first purchasing, because you can swap out several key components for better ones down the track. 

This is not only easier on the wallet, but a more sustainable approach to computing than most modern laptops, which tend to have non-replaceable RAM and storage which you're stuck with for the life of the computer.

Replaceable or upgradeable RAM, storage, Wi-Fi and battery is a bonus for the user and the environment

The BlackBook Zero 15 has a bottom cover that can be removed to expose two RAM slots (one occupied, one free) and two M.2 SSD slots (again, one occupied and one free). This lets you easily add more memory and storage capacity at any time, and you can also replace the battery and the Wi-Fi module. Few laptops these days allow this sort of flexibility.

Long-term life cycle

Venom builds its laptops to last, with an eye on a long-term lifecycle that benefits both the user and the environment. Easily upgradeable and repairable components are part of Venom's unique approach to designing and marketing its laptops, as is the inclusion of a long-term buy-back option for when you're finished with it. 

You buy direct from Venom and can sell direct back to Venom. After using it for up to seven years, you can trade your laptop in for cash via the Venom Global Trade in Program, which is a great alternative to becoming landfill. This is intended to help reduce e-waste and, as with the upgrade and repair options, demonstrates the thoughtful approach that Venom takes with its products right through their life cycle.

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.